Why I Read and Write Memoir

Behind the public-facing (Instagram) joy of landing my book deal, life is, as Glennon Doyle calls it, "Brutiful." Brutal + beautiful!

My 87-year-old mom fell eleven weeks ago and the stress hasn't let up since. Beth, my sister and only sibling, has shouldered most of the load.

ER visits. Hospital stays. Rehab. Managing caregivers and medication. Grocery shopping. Phone calls at all hours from health care professionals and our mother. I've done what I can from long-distance—primarily dealing with insurance companies and being a safe place for my sister to vent.

We've never had to deal with a situation like this before. Our mom was the caregiver for our dad, who died eleven years ago at age 73 after living with Parkinson's disease for 22 years. Now we're the ones on the front lines.

We're exhausted. Angry. Frustrated.

And many days we feel alone—and hopeless.

We're grasping at straws, searching for help, information—something to help us get through this.

Self-help or how-to books—what are known in the publishing world as "prescriptive nonfiction"—are super helpful for conveying information, which is often what we need when we're struggling with a particular issue.

When we're grieving a profound loss.

When we're having trouble finding traction in our career.

When we're drowning as we try to manage the care of an elderly parent.

Or when we're feeling like our world has been turned upside down when we question our sexuality or contemplate coming out.  

But often, we want more than just information when we're struggling.

We want to feel. We want to feel less alone. Feel understood. Feel connected.

And story—specifically memoir—does just that.

My current struggles with my mother's health situation has reminded me of why I read—and write—memoir.

Right now, my sister and I need to feel less alone. We need to know that there are other daughters who have gone through a similar situation and made it to the other side.

We need stories to show us that we can get through this somehow, some way.

I felt the same way when I was first questioning my sexuality, I read every self-help book and memoir about coming out later in life that I could put my hands on.

Newsflash: There weren’t nearly enough.

Since those early coming out days, I’ve read more powerful coming out memoirs:

  • UNTAMED by Glennon Doyle
  • THE FIXED STARS by Molly Wizenberg
  • HERETIC by Jeanna Kadlec

—to name a few. They gave me glimpses into worlds I didn't know well, like the evangelical world Jeanna Kadlec was born into and eventually left.

AND they helped me feel less alone in my journey. The impact those books had on me continues to this day—because the journey continues.

Another newsflash: Coming out isn't one and done.

My deepest hope for THE ONLY WAY THROUGH IS OUT, my later in life coming out memoir, forthcoming February 2024 from the University of Wisconsin Press, is that it will help MY readers feel less alone.

The women at midlife who long for a bigger, different life but are afraid to leave the safety of the known.

The LGBTQ+ folx in the closet or peeking out who long to live out loud but are afraid of the cost.

I wonder if you have a story that will help someone out there feel less alone. That will give them hope when life feels very dark.

If you do, I hope you will write it. Because you never know whose life you might change. 

👉🏻 So tell me, what's your story?


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